PURCHASE, N.Y. – Israeli filmmaker Avner Faingulernt presented SUNY Purchase students and interested parties with a different view of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
Faingulernt showed clips from two of his documentary films. “Men on the Edge: Fishermen’s Diary” showed Israelis and Palestinians working together on a fishing boat while “War Matador” explored “war tourism” where people gather at the Gaza border to watch the bombs and missiles fly during actual attacks.
“My films look at little details in the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians,” Faingulernt said. “This allows me to observe the reality of the conflict by looking at it from a different approach.”
Faingulernt moved to the area near the Gaza border in Southern Israel 12 years ago. Many people he knew didn’t understand why he would want to leave urban centers like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But Faingulernt said he moved to be near the land that his parents grew up on.
“It’s not urban and it’s a warzone,” Faingulernt said about where he lives near the Gaza border. “The socioeconomic situation is real bad too, but I was able to find myself there with my film studio.”
Faingulernt said that most of the people living where he lives are from the “third world.” But even though the living conditions aren’t as modern as urban centers in Israel, people still want to move there. Faingulernt said that when he opened his film studio in 2000 he had 30 students. Now, 12 years later, he has over 400 students. Even though people still move to the area, Faingulernt reminded people of its dangerous reality at times.
“We have 15 seconds when we hear an alert siren to find shelter,” Faingulernt said. “We will hear bombs, and then come back to the classroom to study. This could happen between 10 and 20 times per day.”
But at the heart of his films is the human element of two groups of people divided. From up close, Faingulernt saw how some Palestinians and Israelis living near Gaza are almost like family to each in spite of the tension between the two groups of people.
Faingulernt was invited to the college by Rachel Hallote, coordinator of the Jewish Studies program at SUNY Purchase. Hallote said that the program involved both film students and those studying her program.
“It brings these students together who might not see what each other are doing during the year,” Hallote said.